Whitney Houston died on Saturday, February 11, 2012, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, hours before she was scheduled to appear at Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammy party just floors below. Despite much criticism and concern, the party went on without her. With sadness in the air, Davis took to the podium to console the grieving. “Whitney was so full of life. She was so looking forward to tonight,” he said. “She loved music and loved this night that celebrated music. Whitney would have asked that the music go on. And her family said the show should go on.”
With hours until showtime, Grammy producers pulled together a mini tribute to Whitney, featuring Jennifer Hudson singing “I Will Always Love You.” In the months that followed, Hudson joined a host of other performers paying tribute to Houston at the BET Awards, ESSENCE Festival, VH1 Divas, Billboard Awards and more.
In the hours following Houston’s death, mourners began purchasing her music at increasing numbers. A week after her death, Houston sold more than 100,000 albums. She also became the first woman in history to have three albums on Billboard’s Top 10. Her singles also topped the iTunes chart.
On February 18, Houston’s family and friends came together to say goodbye at Newark, New Jersey’s New Hope Baptist Church. Oprah Winfrey, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Forest Whitaker, Spike Lee, Rev. Al Sharpton, Alicia Keys, Tyler Perry and more were on hand for the homegoing service. Houston’s Bodyguard co-star, Kevin Costner, delivered the eulogy, saying, “You weren’t just pretty. You were as beautiful as a woman could be. And people didn’t just like you Whitney. They loved you.”
Oprah Winfrey sat down with then-19-year-old Bobbi Kristina Brown for her first one-on-one interview after Whitney’s death. The interview, which aired on March 11, 2012, earned OWN its highest ratings with 3.5 million viewers. “Now she is an angel,” said Bobbi Kristina. “But everyone wanted to say she’s something that she wasn’t. I saw her cry, and we held each other through that. I want people to know that everything people are saying about her is garbage. That’s not my mother. That’s not who she is.”
In late March 2012, Houston’s full autopsy report was released to the public. It proved that Houston died of an accidental drowning in her hotel room. Traces of marijuana, Xanax, Flexeril and Benadryl were found in her system. Cocaine was also listed as a contributing factor to her death.
ESSENCE’s April issue was dedicated to the late songstress. Inside, celebrities paid tribute to the icon and shared their fondest memories.
Weeks after appearing on Oprah’s Next Chapter, Bobbi Kristina was offered a spot on Tyler Perry’s TBS sitcom For Better or Worse. During that interview she told Oprah, “We’re gonna do the singing thing. Some acting, some dancing… It’s a lot of pressure, but she prepared me for it.”
Houston’s last film, Sparkle, debuted in theaters on August 17, 2012. It would be the last time fans would see the legend on the silver screen. Jordin Sparks recalled working with Houston on set: “I got the amazing honor to stand face-to-face with her. I have amazing memories that I get to cherish,” she told the crowd at ESSENCE’s Black Women in Hollywood event. “I didn’t know her very long. It was two months. It was 12 hours a day for two months. You get really close when you’re in that kind of setting. She was so motherly and so kind and hilarious. She was so funny. She would bust out with stories and jokes.”
In early October, Bobbi Kristina suffered her second car crash in just two months. According to reports, she lost control of her black Chevy Camaro while leaving her Alpharetta, Georgia, apartment. The car drove over a curb and down an embankment, hitting a number of trees in the process. She was not injured.
In October 2012, days before The Houstons: On Our Own was set to debut on Lifetime, Bobbi Kristina and Nick Gordon said they were engaged. “I am in love with him,” said Bobbi Kristina in a sneak peek. Bobbi’s aunt, Pat, later told ESSENCE.com her niece was not engaged to Gordon. “They’re friends,” she said.
To much criticism and some skepticism, The Houstons: On Our Own debuted on Lifetime in October 2012. The show promised to give an insider’s look into how the family is coping and healing after Whitney’s death. “Everybody’s reality is different,” her sister-in-law and manager Pat Houston told ESSENCE.com about the show. “People with reality shows out there are feeling their reality, whatever that may be. Our reality isn’t theirs, and theirs isn’t ours.”
In mid-October 2012, Brandy released her long-awaited sixth studio album Two Eleven. Not only did the album represent Brandy’s birthday, it also bared the date that her beloved icon and mentor Whitney Houston died. “Her leaving on that day, for me, it was almost like it was her way of saying to me that you know what you have to do,” she said in an interview with Truee. “She completely blessed me and changed my life the moment I saw her open her mouth to sing. My whole life is dedicated to her.”
In late January 2013, Cissy Houston appeared on Oprah’s Next Chapter to talk about her late daughter and promote her new book, Remembering Whitney: My Story of Love, Loss and the Night the Music Stopped. During the tell-all interview, the Houston matriarch discussed her feelings toward Bobby Brown, Whitney’s drug use and rumors Whitney had a same-sex relationship with her executive assistant.
In the year since Houston’s death, there were three major books published in her honor. BeBe Winans published The Whitney I Knew on July 31, 2012. Pat Houston, in conjunction with Clive Davis and Randee St. Nicholas, released Whitney: Tribute to an Icon on November 27, 2012. And on January 29, 2013, Cissy Houston published the very personal and very telling Remembering Whitney: My Story of Love, Loss and the Night the Music Stopped.